The Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA) wrapped up its annual general meeting (AGM) in the middle of a firestorm of controversy on social media aimed at KIA president David Ningeongan this past week in Rankin Inlet.

The controversy was ignited by Richard Connelly, who raised numerous concerns on social media questioning Ningeongan’s business practices as president of the KIA, the effectiveness of the Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement (IIBA) with Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) for the Meliadine gold project near Rankin, and why Sakku Investments – the investment arm of the KIA – seemed to be competing with local Inuit-owned companies that employ more Inuit than the companies being awarded the contracts.

Sakku has preferred-contract standing through the IIBA, a fact Connelly claims cost his company work at Meliadine, which left many of its Inuit employees out of a job.
Ningeongan declined to comment on anything of a legal or personal nature but said he thinks a lot of the concerns raised by Connelly were clarified during the community concerns addressed at the AGM on October 4.

“We had a full house of people at the meeting interested in hearing what Mr. Connelly had to say and how I answered his questions, but I think a lot of it was miscommunication, misinformation and third-hand information shared that shouldn’t have been.

“I did own a business when I first ran for KIA president, but I indicated to the communities of the region that if I were elected my only priority would be to represent the communities. But, of course, you cannot just sell a business overnight and, once I was elected, it took a while to sell the business.
“But the business was sold back in 2014 and I was under a blind trust at the time, as well, so I did not have any dealings with it, nor management of it while I was the KIA president.”

“I do not make any other salary anywhere outside of KIA, and I do not have any personal interest in any business anywhere.”

He said the online comments may have damaged his reputation.

“Any other person who has gone through what I have in what was put on social media… it definitely had an impact on their political career.

“So, yes, it has had that kind of an impact on my chances of running again for my position, for sure.

“I’ve got about a year to think about whether I’m going to run again or not – I can’t say for sure at this point – but we still have a lot to do during the next 12 or 13 months and what we achieve will dictate how we move forward.

“We had hoped by this AGM we would have completed our Kivalliq tour to start providing programs for the communities, but we had to deal with these social media issues and that basically sidetracked the schedules we had moving forward.”

Connelly was contacted and invited to meet with Kivalliq News to discuss some of the concerns posted on social media, but could not be reached before press time.

Manitoba hydro project
Ningeongan said the 43rd KIA AGM went as well as could be expected given the situation.
He said every item on the agenda was dealt with, noting that among the most important to highlight are the KIA moving ahead with the Manitoba fibre/hydro project through discussions with potential partners, and a marine-protected-area proposal put forward by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“The proposal is for the Kivalliq region, but more so specifically between Coats Island and Coral Harbour, so that’s one item I would see as interesting news for the people of Coral Harbour to see,” said Ningeongan.

“Bringing hydro into the Kivalliq region from Manitoba has been talked about for many years but, during the past four years, we’ve really started concentrating on that project and we’ve included fibre optics as part of the transmission line that we’re proposing to bring from Sundance, Gillim or Churchill into the communities of Arviat, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove.

“We really want to get fibre optics into the Kivalliq, so it just made sense to include it in this proposal, which is now, for me, the most interesting aspect of the project.

“It would be a phenomenal upgrade that would allow us to get true high-speed Internet into all seven Kivalliq communities in the future.”

Past regrets
Ningeongnan said when the KIA – long before his time as president – negotiated the very first IIBA ever signed in connection with the Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake, the KIA received $3.8 million in royalties from a multi-billion dollar operation.

He said it was a horrible deal for Kivalliq Inuit.

“Inuit got a whole lot of nothing,” he said. “So when I became KIA president, I made sure that we can take as much out of our resources for ourselves and move ahead that way, including to support our business arm (Sakku), which is representing 10,000-plus beneficiaries in the region.

“If our business arm is doing well, the communities will do well in dividends coming into the KIA which, in turn, we give to them in programs, services, scholarships and what have you.

“Yes, there are business opportunities within the IIBA that are under the preferred contracts for Sakku because we got a whole lot of nothing from the first IIBA, but the next two IIBAs we signed, we got a 1.2 per cent royalty rate for Meliadine, which improved to 1.4 per cent for the Whale Tail project.”

Ningeongan said Sakku was not included in the first IIBA signed for Meadowbank.

“As far as I’m aware, we have the best IIBAs within the territory, which we hope to further improve upon, and, with preferred contracts, if I’m not mistaken, both the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. and the Kitikmeot are looking to incorporate those provisions into their IIBAs, as well, so their subsidiaries can get work through the mines to give back to their communities.”

Ningeongan’s current term as KIA president runs until Dec. 20, 2019.

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